Faith arises from what we find imaginable. What sociologist call our social imaginary. If I am to ground myself in the Kingdom of God, then I need to ground myself in the imaginary of the first Christians. Something that is proving harder than I expected.
As a Christian, my central story is that of the Gospels, as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Yet, this story is itself grounded in another, that of the Jews: The story of Exodus and redemption from slavery. It was a story of hope. What God had done before, their prophets had declared, he would do again. A great and terrible day was coming when God would dwell amongst his people, setting all things right. That day was to be soon. It is from within this that the Gospel’s story is heard: God had come, but it was not quite as they thought it would be.
Now, it had always struck me as odd that the Virgin Birth, such a small part of the New Testament, became such an integral part of the early Church. As I pondered this, I realised its importance lay in what it had become shorthand for. God was not only dwelling amongst us, but had become one of us. The Apostles Paul and John do not mention the Virgin Birth, but they make much the same point. Paul expresses it powerfully when he says that Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”
The Gospels not only tell of how God dwelt amongst us in the flesh, but how the Spirit would follow. Unfortunately, at this point my deliberations became unstuck. The problem that confronted me was that the disciples were already healing before the Spirit was given, so, why am I doing so little, now that the Spirit has come? Attempting to imagine myself into the first world setting exposed a gap with my world that was so vast that it caused a disconnect that I found quite depressing.
This exercise was supposed to draw me into the imaginary of the Kingdom, if anything, it has done the opposite. I cannot help but compare my life with what it should be and I found almost no common point. I am living in a very different imaginable world. I need a better approach. I took what I thought was the quickest route, but the ascent has proved too steep. I need to find a gentler slope, one more suited to beginners.